Book Nerd Interview
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I really have no idea, I feel like I'm very typical in most ways! I mean, I'm a science-fiction/fantasy nerd who likes books, video-games, and RPGs. Shocking! And I have cats -- I feel like all fantasy authors are required to have cats.
Some people are surprised when I tell them that Django is my real name. On several occasions I've been congratulated on picking an awesome pen-name, which I really can't take credit for.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
That's a really hard question, because different things are great in different ways. As far as The Shadow Campaigns goes, the most important books were George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. (I'd pick A Storm of Swords if I had to choose just one.) His brand of historically-based fantasy, with a big dose of realism, made me think, "Wow, I want to do that!"
Outside of my genre, it would have to be a history book, and there are again many excellent possible choices. One answer would be Lords of Finance, by Liaqat Ahamed, which is just brilliant -- tense, accessible writing about an incredibly abstract topic (central banking in the 20s and 30s) that is incredibly informative about the modern world.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Some author, I forget who, once told me that I should never write a sequel to a book that hasn't been published yet. This turned out to be really good advice, for several reasons. Most obviously, it means that if the first book turns out to be unpublishable, you don't end up with two unpublishable books. But more importantly, it got me to try new things. I wrote at least eight novels before The Thousand Names, which was my first major publication, and looking back at the first few I'm glad I'm not trying to get people to read them; I've learned a lot since then.
In your book; The Shadow Throne, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
The Shadow Throne is the sequel to The Thousand Names, book two (of five) in my Shadow Campaigns series. Where the first book took place in Khandar, a distant colony of the nation of Vordan, the second book moves back to Vordan itself. The king is very ill, and the Duke Orlanko -- head of the Concordat, the all-powerful secret police -- is increasingly looking like the true power in the country. But Raesinia, the young heir to the throne, is not planning to give up without a fight.
Into this mess come the returning heroes of the Khandarai campaign, Janus bet Vhalnich, Marcus d'Ivoire, and Winter Ihernglass. The old king desperately turns to them for help, but with the city streets ready to boil over, even Janus may not be able to stem the tide of revolution.
For those who are unfamiliar with Marcus, how would you introduce him?
Marcus is military officer of the most solid, dependable sort. He's competent, loyal, and reliable, with a strong connection to the men under his command. In normal times, he'd be the sort of person one would expect to have a successful but unremarkable career, and then retire peacefully to the country.
Unfortunately for Marcus, these are not normal times. His commander is Janus bet Vhalnich, a mercurial genius with a hidden agenda that has only begun to be revealed. And with the imminent death of the king, factions in the government are squaring off, leaving Marcus torn between conflicting responsibilities.
Ultimately, Marcus' story is about loyalty and duty. He someone who wants to do the right thing -- by his men, by his orders, by his country -- in a situation where it is increasingly unclear what the right thing is. That conflict, as he tries to reconcile demands pulling in opposite directions, is for me what makes him an interesting character to write.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My other big project is a middle-grade fantasy series, starting with The Forbidden Library (already released) and continuing in The Mad Apprentice (next year). Between that and The Shadow Campaigns, I'm pretty busy! I do also have humorous urban fantasy that is a little less well known, John Golden, Freelance Debugger -- you can read more about that here: http://djangowexler.com/stories/
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Hmm, tough one. I'd like to introduce Raesinia (from The Shadow Throne) to Alice, the protagonist of The Forbidden Library. I have a feeling they'd get along famously, and would definitely cause a lot of trouble together! That'd be fun to watch.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Winter?
When I originally introduced Winter, many drafts ago, she was a very different character. She was supposed to be Janus' little sister for a while, I think, and a potential love interest for Marcus. (She also wasn't disguised as a soldier.) But I could never really get that to work right, and what I realized is that if she was going to carry half the book, she needed to have a story all her own, rather than being a prop for the other half. (This is good advice in general. We need characters, not props.)
Once I started trying to figure her story out, it just grew and grew, until it's maybe the most important thread in the entire series. That was a really fun experience, getting all that to come together.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
This one. (Bam, paradox!)
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Try a lot of different things. I read a lot of "Writers writing about writing" books when I was in school, and mostly they weren't terribly helpful. (King's On Writing was probably the best.) What I eventually realized is that what you might call "process" -- how you write, where you write, what kind of drafts you do, how you like to edit -- is intensely personal, and what works for one person will fail utterly for another. I see a lot of people trying to slavishly copy the way Famous Writer X does things, and that's not a good idea. It's fine to see what other people do, but you should look at it as possibilities to try out -- never get so locked in you're not willing to experiment, but you have to find out what works best for you and then do that.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked at a small tech company where the boss (an internet millionaire) was totally crazy. He would come out every day at 3 PM and demand that we all stop work so we could play Quake with him. Supposedly he drank only coffee (which he brewed using caffeinated water, to make it stronger) and alcohol.
[A.N. Skipping a few of the personal ones, not my thing.]
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I think things are just getting better and better for teens. (At least, here in the US!) I was a teen during the 90s, and I don't think I'd trade that for any other decade in the last century. Frankly, I'd be a teen now if I could. Technology is getting awesome!
What is your greatest adventure?
Writing, so far. It's been two years since I quit my job at Microsoft to do this full-time, and the thrill hasn't worn off yet!
Where can readers stalk you?
I'm most active social-media-wise on Twitter, at @DjangoWexler, or on Facebook at AuthorDjangoWexler. More information on my books, excerpts, etc, is on my website at http://www.djangowexler.com .
The ailing King of the Vordan lies on his deathbed. When he dies, his daughter, Raesinia Orboan, will become the first Queen Regnant in centuries—and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. The most dangerous of these is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and master of the secret police. Having meticulously silenced his adversaries through intimidation, imprisonment, and execution, Orlanko is the most feared man in the kingdom.
And he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.
Exposure would mean ruin, but Raesinia is determined to find a way to break herself—and her country—out of Orlanko’s iron grip. She finds unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, fresh from a brilliant campaign in the colony of Khandar, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass.
As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could free Vordan from Orlanko’s influence—at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise.